The Moocher’s New Printer

After many years of using a Canon Pixma printer, the Moocher decided that the time had come for its retirement. Like many things in computing, changing interface standards rather than aging led to its replacement.

References

  1. Epson XP-830 Printer at Epson
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Printing_Protocol
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CUPS
  4. https://support.vendhq.com/hc/en-us/articles/205052024-Enabling-CUPS-Printer-Interface-for-Mac

The Incumbent

The incumbent printer became part of the Moocher’s household in 2006. Before that time, a dot matrix printer and an Apple Laserwriter 630 had performed printing chores. After 12 years, it was time to switch to a more modern printer. After considering requirements, Consumer Reports reviews, and a visit to Amazon, the moocher chose the Epson XP-830.

Why change?

As with many things computing, changing interface standards drove the change. The Moocher bought the incumbent printer back in the days of USB and 2002 dual mirror door Macintosh sitting under the desk. Over the years a Mac Mini and an iMac replaced the tower Mac and interconnection changed from USB to Ethernet and WiFi. The incumbent printer only printed, well for the time but could not scan, copy, or fax.

But Requirements Also Changed

The study physical arrangement had the iMac on the desk, the printer on a side table, and a USB cable shared with recharging desktop things, camera, etc. Each time something was queued to print, the USB cable had to be connected. This was getting old so the Moocher decided time to come into the modern era of Ethernet printer interfaces.

So requirements became

  • Support low volume printing
  • Support scanning and copying
  • Have an Ethernet interface
  • Have standardized communication protocol and content description protocols
  • Integrate the the MacOS printing subsystem (CUPS)

After a review of Consumer Reports recommended printers and reading some Amazon reviews, the Moocher settled on an Epson XP-830 printer with the following key features.

  • All in one copy, print, scan, and fax
  • Color printing
  • Photo printing up to 8×10
  • CD/DVD label printing on the disk
  • Ethernet and WiFI interfaces
  • Big touchscreen display
  • Web Interface for management.
  • Met interface requirements described above

The Epson XP-830 was one of many compatible printers. After reviewing Consumer Reports, the Moocher chose to pick an Epson all in one printer designed for home and home office use. Epson has 2 lines of printers, those designed for occasional use and those designed for daily use printing tens of pages per day. The XP-830 is in the occasional use family. These printers are designed to be thrifty with ink during nozzle cleaning and to have longer page printing times than the next family up. They are about 1/3 the price of the medium duty all in one printers.

How it is set up

The printer is configured as a DHCP client out of the box. I assigned it a static IPv4 address in my router’s DHCP server.

The printer supports MDNS service discovery advertising printing and scanning services (how I configured it). I gave it a cute name in keeping with the Manor’s Dismal Swamp theme (Dismal Inky).

When the printer wakes for the first time it will guide you through network setup using its control panel touchscreen. When Internet configuration is completed, it will check for firmware updates and prompt you to open the setup screen to update the firmware after completing the initial configuration wizard. After initial configuration, you can manage the printer using a web browser.

MacOS Setup

On a Mac, no drivers are needed. The CUPS printer description files and SANE scanner description files are spot on describing the printer’s printing and scanning capabilities. Once the printer is settled with firmware updated, address set, and advertising services, 

Internet Printing Protocol

Reference 2 describes Internet Printing Protocol, an industry consortium developed standard protocol for communications between computing systems and their printing subsystems. The protocol provides all of the tools needed to inquire about printer status, transfer configuration data to the printer, transmit print jobs to the printer, and to cancel a print job that has already been transferred to the printer. 

Print a Test Page

The MacOS control panel for the Epson XP-830 has now widget to print a test page. It turns out that you can do this using CUPS. The MacOS printer daemon runs a web server listening on port localhost:631. If you browse there, you will find the complete standard interface for the MacOS CUPS subsystem. This interface lets an administrator add and remove printers, configure queues, control queues, and remove jobs from the queue, and terminate the job in progress. It also lets you print test pages. One reviewer recommended printing a test page weekly to avoid the need for repeated nozzle cleanings. 

MacOS Mohave ships with the CUPS web interface disabled by default. You can enable it using the CUPS management command as described in Reference 4.  Once enabled, browse to localhost:631, select the printer, and pick the print test page option. This will queue a simple color test page to be printed that can be used to check printer scaling and that all nozzles are clear.

Checking Consumables, etc

The MacOS printer control panel lets you check ink levels, run the nozzle cleaning procedure, start and stop the print queue, and manage jobs in the queue. Once a job is in the printer, you have to use the printer’s control panel to kill the buffered part of the job.

Printer Control Panel

One of the things that makes this printer nice is that it has a roomy touchscreen control panel that is used to make the initial printer network configuration and feature configuration. On power up, a wizard guides you through this process. Once networking is configured, browsing to port 80 on the printer’s IP address lets you further review the printer settings.